Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 08/16/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #988 Would the Course consider karma to be beyond its scope?
Q #989 Can the Course be responsible for changes in diet or lifestyle?
Q #990 The more deeply I move into the Course, the less I feel in touch with God.
Q #991 If we regain oneness, will we retain our individualized memories?

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Q #988: I have a friend who is being "cleared" of her karmas and is having what I consider to be great results, such as having the ability to heal others. Could you please comment on what Jesus' message might be about this? Would A Course in Miracles consider this subject to be beyond its scope?

A: Your question raises two issues: what is the Course perspective on karma, and where does it stand on being able to heal another. You are correct that neither of these topics is the focus of the Course. So let us explore why this is so.

Perhaps the most cogent description of Jesus' stance on healing can be found in the following passage: "Whom you attack you cannot want to heal. And whom you would have healed must be the one you chose to be protected from attack. And what is this decision but the choice whether to see him through the body's eyes, or let him be revealed to you through vision? How this decision leads to its effects is not your problem. But what you want to see must be your choice. This is a course in cause and not effect" (T.21.VII.7:34,5,6,7,8).

We will examine the last sentence of that passage first: "This is a course in cause and not in effect." By cause , Jesus means the mind -- specifically the part of our mind, which has the power to choose to listen to either the ego or the Holy Spirit. When we listen to the ego (which tells us we exist at God's expense), our mind fills with guilt and fear, causing us to project anger and attack. This is the dynamic that compelled us to fall asleep and dream up a world of separate bodies in the first place -- our unfortunate response to the ego's cunning proclamation that we could remove all the guilt from our mind if only we had bodies onto which we could project it. By effect , Jesus means the world , which is nothing more than a nightmare we are having because we continually choose to dream with the ego rather than awaken with the Holy Spirit.

To Jesus, then, physical sickness is simply one more element of our dream, which reflects the guilt in our mind. Thus, since sickness is but an effect, Jesus and his course are not concerned with physical healing. Rather he wants to help us make the shift in our mind that "takes away the guilt that makes the sickness possible" (W.pI.140.4:5) . This is the shift Jesus refers to in the passage quoted above when he speaks of the choice whether to see another "through the body's eyes" (meaning the guilty eyes of the ego) or by letting him be "revealed through vision" (meaning the loving vision of the Holy Spirit). When we choose the body's eyes, we will always have an underlying motive of attack. When we look with the Holy Spirit, we will see the innocence we share with our brother that remains hidden in the mind, beyond our seemingly separate physical identities. This will automatically lead us to extend love, thus protecting our brother from attack by rejecting rather than reinforcing his guilty perception of himself.

Jesus tells us that how this decision leads to its effects is not our problem. But making this choice is. In other words, we do not need to worry about how our state of mind gets reflected in this dream. We need only concern ourselves with changing internal teachers so that we can experience the Holy Spirit's Love regardless of what appears to be happening in the physical world.

When we achieve that, we will be able to be with others whose bodies appear to be sick and know that their physical illness can have no effect on the reality of who they are. There may be times when our knowledge that they are not guilty allows others to release the fear that created their need for physical symptoms. There will also surely be times when both their fear and their illness seem to remain unaffected by our love. Again, this is not our concern. Our concern is only with our own mind and the thought system with which we choose to align it. (For more about this, see Chapter III of the Song of Prayer pamphlet.)

This focus on the present state of our mind is why the Course does not address karma. From Jesus' perspective, what we did lifetimes ago or five minutes ago is all the same -- part of a dream from which we need to awaken. What matters is not our past, but the internal teacher we are choosing right now . This does not, however, negate the fact that dealing with past life issues could be very useful for some people. And if your friend has found a process that facilitates her letting go of guilt, then this is very helpful. But from a Course perspective, this is not really due to her karma being cleared. Instead, it is the result of her finding a symbol that finally allowed her to accept forgiveness and let it wash away the imagined guilt for her imagined sins of her imagined past.

Q #989: Since studying A Course in Miracles , my life has changed in many wonderful ways. In the last five years, I have been eating nothing but fruits and vegetables. Also, being married since 1978, I have become celibate with my wife's blessing. I was wondering if anyone else has changed their diet and other forms of lifestyle?

A: We have not run across this very often, as the focus of the Course's teachings is exclusively on changing our thinking -- it says nothing about behavior. However, in general, people do find themselves becoming more compassionate as they practice forgiveness over a period of time and get in touch with the inner pain they realize everyone else shares with them. This leads them to be less judgmental of themselves and others.

The primary focus of the Course's teachings is on changing the purpose for which we use the body and the world, which means becoming aware of whether we have chosen the ego or Jesus as our teacher. Since Jesus recognizes the fundamental unreality of the body and the world, our lifestyle and the food we choose to eat is essentially irrelevant to him. His concern is only with our minds -- whether our thoughts reflect the ego's doctrine of separate interests or his doctrine of shared interests. He therefore teaches us to see the world as a classroom in which everything of the body becomes a means of learning that we all share the same wrong mind, the same right mind and the same decision-making power to choose between them, and that our common purpose is to awaken from the dream of separation. This lesson can be learned whether you are a vegetarian or not, whether you are celibate or not. Since the world is illusory, nothing in it is inherently holy or unholy -- holiness is associated only with our mind's choice to share the Holy Spirit's perception of all things. For further discussion of these issues, you may wish to look at Questions #120, #170, #247, #430, and #448 on this Service.

Q #990: It seems to me that the more deeply I move into A Course in Miracles , the less I feel in touch with God. Here my ego has trapped my spirit in a body and I spend my life choosing between higher-self and lower-self reactions to supposed others, while God is blissfully unaware of what I believe is my existence. So God becomes more and more an amorphous and theoretical concept to me. There are even periods when I entertain the thought that there is no God. What keeps me going is that I cannot see how the Course could come from any being of this world. I also cannot find any better explanation for the craziness of this world or "existence," or any better path than the Course for dealing with it. Part of me knows that all of this could just be one great - - and I wish, last ditch -- ego defense to stop me from moving through the Course. Do you have any ideas about this paradox and how it can best be dealt with?

A: While painful, your sense that you are feeling less in touch with God is a normal and perhaps even critical stage of working with the Course. After all, the Course is telling us that the God most of us grew up with does not exist. Unlike the God of the Bible, the Course's God "does not know of separation" [i.e., this world] ( Psychotherapy Purpose, Process and Practice P.2.VII.1:11) . Fortunately, however, Jesus' message does not end there. His real goal is to help us to understand that "nowhere does the Father end, the Son begin as something separate from Him" (W.pI.132.12:4) . We remain as a "Oneness joined as One…at home in God, dreaming of exile" (T.25.1.7:1, T.10.I.2:1). Thus, God is not unaware of us because He is ignorant or uncaring. He does not know about us because we -- as the separated beings we think we are -- do not exist . This is our dream not His.

Despite its Christian language, which refers to God as a being with thoughts and feelings, the Course's underlying message is that God is not a being and neither are we . To our sleeping mind, under the tutelage of the ego, this concept is both incomprehensible and very threatening. So the ego acts quickly to annihilate this threat and maintain its grip on us. It perverts the Course's potentially mind-altering message by telling us, "You see, you thought God was angry at you. But it's even worse than that. He doesn't even care about you at all!" This defense lets us remain firmly rooted in this dream with our one-or-the-other mentality perfectly intact.

However, as you stated in your question, there is a part of our mind that recognizes a loving presence in the Course, which could not possibly have come from within the thought system of this world. And part of us knows that if we recognize something, it must be within us. We grasp - - perhaps faintly at times -- that there is something within us to which we long to return. But Jesus knows that although we long desperately to feel God's all-encompassing Love, we cannot understand it or make sense of it from within this dream. And so he does not attempt to teach us what God or His Love is. Rather, he focuses on teaching us what they are not .

He does not ask us to believe in God. Rather he strives to help us gradually come to know God by letting forgiveness take the place of all the guilty illusions that block His Love from our awareness. Perhaps Jesus' best summation of this point comes in the pamphlet Psychotherapy Purpose, Process and Practice . In the following passage, Jesus is referring specifically to psychotherapy. But what he says reveals his perspective on the entire spiritual journey that he asks us to take. "It would be unfair indeed if belief in God were necessary…Nor is belief in God a really meaningful concept, for God can be but known. Belief implies that unbelief is possible, but knowledge of God has no true opposite. Not to know God is to have no knowledge, and it is to this that all unforgiveness leads. And without knowledge one can have only belief" (P.2.II.4:3,4,5,6,7).

And so, happily, conflicted thoughts about the existence of God, and confusion about what God is, are neither personal shortcomings nor impediments to our progress as students of the Course. The best approach is to simply watch them make their inevitable appearance as we continue on our journey of questioning every value that we hold (T.24.In.2:1) .

For a related discussion about the nature of God according to A Course in Miracles , please see Question #625.

Q #991: Once forgiveness is complete, and we have regained the awareness of our oneness with God that we never really lost, will we retain our individualized memories of the ego-based illusion that we decided against? Does union differentiate, or are we destined to become a holy thought in God's mind with perfect communion with the Sonship?

A: Choosing the separation means deciding against oneness in favor of the ego.

Oneness/union and separation/differentiation are mutually exclusive thoughts and cannot be entertained by the mind at the same time. Thus, when we remember our oneness with God, we will not retain a memory of the ego identity of separation. As we are frequently reminded in A Course in Miracles , the problem of separation is one of forgetting the truth of our identity as God's one Son: “Here is your promise never to allow union to call you out of separation; the great amnesia in which the memory of God seems quite forgotten… (T.19.IV.D.3:4). The solution lies in forgetting the separation and remembering the truth of oneness.

By its very nature, union does not separate or differentiate. Differentiation is the essence of duality, at the expense of oneness. It is expressed in individuality/specialness, which cannot be maintained when oneness is chosen. Just as oneness is forgotten when the choice is made to identify with the ego, the illusion of individuality will be forgotten when oneness is chosen and the Atonement is complete. Fear of accepting our oneness with God underlies the intense attachment to specialness that keeps oneness forgotten. The Holy Spirit's curriculum of forgiveness takes into account our fear of oneness and attachment to specialness by transforming the multitude of differences the ego made to separate, into a classroom to learn that the separation never happened (T.6.II.10:7) . This answers the last part of your question; we already are a thought in the Mind of God; a Mind we have never left. We are destined only to remember that this is who we truly are, and to forget the illusion of being anything else. Forgiveness is the path that makes this possible. It is the process of seeing every grievance as a projection of the guilt that accompanies the mind's decision to choose separation rather than oneness. Each time we are willing to look at grievances in this way, our identity as minds is strengthened/ remembered and belief in the body is diminished/forgotten. As Jesus tells us in the text: “It is as sure that those who hold grievances will forget who they are, as it is certain that those who forgive will remember” (W.pI.68.3:1,2,3) .

While fear of oneness remains, we take the small steps of forgiveness in which the pain and anguish of holding grievances disappears and fear is lessened. We take these small steps at a “gentle pace” until we are ready for oneness. As Jesus assures us in the text: “Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality. Time is kind, and if you use it on behalf of reality, it will keep gentle pace with you in your transition” (T.16.VI.8:1,2). These kind words deflate the ego's argument that “fear of losing our individual identity” is just cause for not accepting Jesus' loving message. In the end, everything will be forgotten, for now it is enough that we be willing to forget one grievance at a time through forgiveness.